From spotting dolphins off the coast to fossicking for opals in the outback, South Australia offers experiences the family can enjoy together.
Whether in the city, or in the vast and varied countryside, great and lasting memories are guaranteed. Some of the greatest childhood memories are forged on holidays and South Australia is a place to create some of the most indelible reminiscences.
The state’s sophisticated reputation goes without saying but there’s a big, bright welcome mat laid out for families seeking culturally rich activities and/or just plain fun.
From spotting dolphins off the coast to fossicking for opals in the outback, South Australia offers experiences the family can enjoy together. Whether in the city, or in the vast and varied countryside, great and lasting memories are guaranteed.
Fun on the Fleurieu Peninsula
For starters, indulge your innate Lawrence of Arabia fantasies with a camel ride on the beach at Victor Harbor or live out your John Wayne fantasies and saddle up your horse for a beach ride at Normanville. Alternatively, jump aboard the historic Cockle Train for a coastal journey to remember, travelling from Goolwa to Victor Harbor. There’s also the Horse Drawn Tram that clip–clops across the wooden bridge to Granite Island from Victor Harbor. You can even collect a business card from the horse that pulled you across – there are seven to collect.
Once on Granite Island you can take a penguin tour at dusk or visit the Penguin Interpretive Centre during feeding times in the morning or afternoon. It’s a rare chance to see penguins in their burrows as well as explore their natural habitat with a guide.
Explore the Coorong
More adventure awaits on the southern coast of the peninsula in The Coorong, a wetlands ecosystem comprising ocean beach, freshwater lakes, wetlands and saltwater lagoons. The lagoons of Coorong National Park are protected from the Southern Ocean by the dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula and are ideal to explore by kayak.
Canoe the Coorong offers wetland tours are for all ages and abilities, and offer a sustainable way of exploring this natural paradise. The Coorong stretches for 140km and is also where the Murray River meets the sea. A family summertime paddle might include time just admiring the light shimmer on the water with dunes on one side of you and native birdlife all around. It’s an area as beautiful and diverse as the Kakadu but without the crocodiles and it’s vastly underrated.
In addition to the abundant birdlife, the Coorong attracts dolphins, fur seals, emus and kangaroos. Enormous pelicans one of the world’s largest birds also drift by and slowly take to the sky like feathered seaplanes. The adventure is not just on the water, though. Out on the dunes with Brenton, your guide, you might fossick for a haul of fresh cockles. They’ll be matched with a few other ingredients including some spinach as well as some lemon and dill to create an awesomely fresh treat matched with a little other local produce brought along for the occasion.
If you don’t have a kayak, don’t worry, all the kayaking equipment is included plus lunch, afternoon tea (baked by Brenton and his grandmother) and all the fresh air you could want. A Coorong full-day tour involves about three hours of kayak cruising, broken up with numerous stops and delicious local food. Stretch your legs and take a closer look at native coastal flora on a bush tucker walk across the Younghusband Peninsula to the Southern Ocean.
Adelaide Zoo's pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni could soon be joined by a baby panda.
Surf, sand and shells
A family day out in and around the Peninsula can also involve a day of swimming, building sandcastles, collecting shells and body surfing at one of the many beaches. Horseshoe Bay at Port Elliot provides sheltered, safe swimming and a chance to boogie board, while white sand stretches as far as the eye can see at Normanville.
Over at Middleton Beach is one of the broadest, low gradient sandbars in Australia, where rides of over a minute long are possible even when surfing straight to the beach in not much more than whitewater.
Surf and Sun offer a range of lessons for all standards of surfers as well as equipment hire. It’s a wondrous day out. Oddly enough there are times of the year when you can combine a little bit of surfing with whale watching (although not at the same time). When the surf is big in winter close to Victor Harbor, the occasional whale can be seen and experienced surfers can mix it in the water as well although it’s not for the fainthearted.
Get even closer to wildlife with Big Duck Boat Tours for kids
For children, one of the best places to see Southern Right Whales is along the coast between Victor Harbor and Goolwa (May–October). Call into the SA Whale Centre at Victor Harbor to learn more about these spectacular creatures and other marine life. Ask about the School Holiday Program or visit the 3D Theatre.
Get even closer to wildlife with The Big Duck Boat Tours for kids at Victor Harbor. Carrying a maximum of ten passengers, the exploration craft can get you close to seals, dolphins, seabirds and whales in a big inflatable boat. Choose between half-hour and one-hour tours.
Returning closer to the city for a tamer wildlife experience, Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills offers some spectacular encounters. The 35ha, award-winning Cleland Wildlife Park is home to 130 species of Australian wildlife with many roaming free. Take one of the self-discovery trails; you’ll likely come close to an inquisitive kangaroo or two. The park offers koala cuddles, too.
Stay in the city and you don’t even need a car to visit the Adelaide Zoo. It’s home to Wang Wang and Fu Ni, the only giant pandas in the southern hemisphere. Walk 15 minutes from the CBD to see the adorable twosome and more than 1800 animals in a tilt over 8ha of heritage grounds. Pandas aside, the Immersion South East Asian Rainforest, Seal Bay, Australian Rainforest Wetlands walk-through aviary and Children's Zoo are memories ready-made.
Catching crabs on the Yorke Peninsula
The Yorke Peninsula is the perfect destination for families with over 700 kilometres of beautiful, unspoilt coastline where little (and big) kids can run amok. Just a 60 minute drive from Adelaide, the waters around Ardrossan and Port Clinton are home to many fish and crustaceans – including succulent blue swimmer crabs.
There are two main ways to catch crabs - with crab pots or nets, and by raking. Raking is a fun method for catching crabs in shallow water that doesn’t require bait or any special equipment. All you need is a small rake and a bucket to put the crabs in once caught. The best time to go raking is during the run out tide. Try and pick a day where the water is reasonably clear – this will help you to better spot the crabs.
Begin by tying a rope around the bucket and looping it around your waist – this is the best way to make sure your prized catch doesn’t escape. Then gently disturb any little discoloured and slightly risen areas of sand by raking the shallows. Once you find a crab, the tricky bit is twisting the rake so you can scoop up the crab into your bucket. Remember to keep enough distance between yourself and the crab so you don’t get clawed!
Once you have a few crabs (be sure to check the rules around the number of crabs you can catch here) cook them in boiling water for 7 minutes. Once out of the pot put them into icy water to cool and enjoy with a little salt, pepper and butter.The best time to rake for crabs is between September and April.